A national legal organization is fighting back a prominent atheist activist group that recently sent letters to over 20 secular universities in its goal to have its football chaplains “permanently benched.”
As previously reported, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) released a 25-page report last week in which it takes issue with the idea of football chaplains, stating that “Christian coaches and chaplains are converting football fields into mission fields.”
“Coaches, players, and even chaplains can worship as they want. They can go to church, read the Bible, and pray as often as they like. Nothing prevents them from doing so,” the report reads. “But they cannot use a publicly subsidized position at a university to promote their personal religion. Nor can they use the coercive nature and structure of a public football program to mandate, order, or even suggest that players under their control should worship as the coaches wish.”
It lists 15 schools considered by the organization to have “the most flagrant chaplaincies,” the majority of which are in the Bible Belt. They include the University of Tennessee, the University of South Carolina, Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi.
FFRF said in a corresponding press release that it had sent letters to approximately 20 university officials to explain why it believes that the use of chaplains is unconstitutional.
“It makes no difference if the chaplain is unofficial, not school-sponsored or a volunteer, because chaplains are given access to the team as a means for coaches to impose religion, usually Christianity, on their players,” the organization wrote in its correspondence. “Under the circumstances, the chaplain’s actions are attributable to the university and those actions are unconstitutional.”
Among the universities who were sent the letter and report include Auburn University in Alabama, the University of Georgia and the University of Missouri.
But the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) in Washington, D.C. says that it is now pushing back against FFRF and will be sending letters to all of the universities to tell them that the atheist organization’s assertions are inaccurate.
“[T]hese atheists are anything but freethinkers. They do not support freethinking,” wrote Joseph Williams of the ACLJ in a post on Friday. “Instead, they attack things they don’t like, such as chaplains for football teams where adults voluntarily agree to participate in faith-based events and meetings.”
“FFRF is calling football team chaplains ‘religious discrimination’ and players and coaches praying together an ‘unholy alliance.’ The ACLJ has successfully defeated FFRF claims like these before because the Constitution does not mean what the FFRF thinks it means,” he continued.
Williams said that he disagrees with FFRF’s recommendation to colleges and universities that they hire secular counselors instead of spiritual ones.
“Just as they’ve done before, the FFRF attacks traditional faiths and wants to replace them with their radical, leftist, secular orthodoxy,” he stated.
“Here at the ACLJ, we are fighting back. We are preparing comprehensive legal letters to let each of these college football programs know what their Constitutional rights are,” Williams said. “We are fighting the angry atheist attacks on every front. We are standing up for the Constitution and for the religious rights of football players from coast to coast as the new season begins.”